Tag Archive | "Chris Nuzzi"

Acrimony Remains Over Beach Parking

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By Claire Walla

Hardly quelling concerns on either side of the aisle, the Southampton Town Board decided unanimously (with the exception of Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, who was absent) to close a public hearing last Tuesday, July 12 on the issue of parking on Noyac Bay Avenue in Noyac. Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said a resolution to lift the partial parking ban entirely will be brought to the board at its next meeting in two weeks.

“It’s not about parking, it’s about a fundamental right,” Throne-Holst said.

The town board came to a decision at its last meeting to pass a resolution lifting the parking ban on 100 feet of pavement, allowing three to four cars unrestricted access.

But, along with Councilwoman Bridget Fleming and Councilman Jim Malone, the supervisor expressed concern that any “no parking” signs in the area would contribute to restricted beach access. (While the east-west road is flanked by a private beach club to the north and a private marina to the south, the avenue itself belongs to the town of Southampton, as does a roughly 50-foot wide patch of sand adjacent to it.)

“We cannot restrict the rights anywhere because once we restrict it somewhere, that sets a precedent [for the town],” the supervisor added.

Councilman Chris Nuzzi — the lone voice of dissent on the board last Tuesday — highlighted the compromise that had been reached at the last meeting and downplayed the need for unrestricted access.

“This isn’t necessarily precedent-setting, as far as I can tell. This isn’t actually as limiting as you’d find in some areas,” he said, noting the fact that some town roads that end at the water are permit-only.

Town Transportation Director Tom Neely actually explained that there are roads in the town that dead-end at bodies of water that are in fact permit-only; however, there are currently no roadways dead-ending at the bay that restrict parking.

The issue started about two years ago when residents of Northampton Colony appealed to the board for parking restrictions on Noyac Bay Avenue, citing concerns over several thefts reported in the marina. As no community members then expressed discontent over the issue, the town board complied.

“This isn’t right,” said Noyac resident Lisina Ceresa of the parking restrictions. “I think it’s a disgrace that the octogenarians have been denied access to the only beach they can easily access.”

The town board heard from dozens of community members who argued both sides of the issue with [ferocity]. Members of Northampton Colony hinged their arguments on issues of public safety, reiterating the issue of past theft in the area and highlighting the safety hazards of swimming in the water at the foot of the avenue, which is actually a working channel leading into the marina.

“All we need is a young person’s fishing line to get caught in a boat’s propeller,” said Northampton Colony resident Ken Harvey, alluding to issues of liability. “If you’re going to open it up to anyone to park there, you must guard against that in some way, because I — as a tax payer in this town — don’t want to be faced with lawsuits because you said anyone can use this property, and then they go there and get injured.”

Harbor Master Larry Tullio cited more specific concerns.

“These people here do not want to use this space,” he said, referring to the small portion of sand belonging to the town. “They want to use our country club and they want to use our marina. They are not allowed to set-up beach chairs and umbrellas on private property.”

But Councilwoman Bridget Fleming brought things into perspective, saying that in her view the issue hardly concerns the state or the size of the beach in question.

“The important part is not what people are intending to do, but a basic fundamental principal that we as a town board cannot step in and say that access to this beach is denied,” she said. “You cannot restrict access to public property.”

Town Trustee Jon Semlear, a Noyac resident, echoed Fleming’s sentiments.

“This issue is very important to me both personally and [as a town trustee],” he said, adding that it’s important “that we remain active in protecting the access points in our wild and public lands.”

“I’m very fortunate to have water access,” he continued. “But most people in the town don’t have access, and we have to look out for them. As a trustee for 18 years, everyone’s always trying to nibble away [at beach access]. This is something that we’re vigilant about. It’s a constant battle. If we keep giving up, there’s going to be a point when it’s all private.”

Wruck: GOP Will Not Have Supervisor Candidate in Southampton

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According to Southampton Town Republican Party Chairman Ernest Wruck, the GOP will not put a candidate up against incumbent Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst (Ind.) in this November’s town wide election.

“The feeling was that we did not have a viable candidate,” Wruck said in an interview this past Tuesday.

The party struggled to find a candidate to replace current Councilman Chris Nuzzi, who was formally nominated to run against Throne-Holst by his party at the GOP Nominating Convention in May.  However — after three weeks of mulling it over — Nuzzi declined the nomination.

“I believe there is no such thing as proceeding forward without being 100 percent committed,” Nuzzi wrote in a statement shortly after Wruck announced the councilman would not seek the supervisor’s spot. “After much thought and consideration, and based upon the current needs of family, I am reaffirming my decision to not run for supervisor at this time.”

“I would rather not discuss the process,” Wruck continued in response to whether or not the GOP had actually conducted interviews for the position. “My thought was that if we did not have a serious candidate, it was going to hurt the process.”

Incumbent Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst is now running unopposed for reelection this November.

Instead of bolstering a candidate the party was not 100 percent behind, Wruck said the party has refocused its attention to its candidates for town board: Bill Hughes and Christine Preston Scalera. Neither Hughes, a retired Southampton Town police officer, nor Preston Scalera, an attorney, has served as an elected member of the board before.

The GOP ticket will be up against current councilwoman Bridget Fleming (Dem.) who is running for reelection, and newcomer Brad Bender (Ind.).

In addition to Fleming’s spot on the town board, councilwoman Nancy Graboski’s seat will be up in November. However, after several years serving the town, Graboski will not run for reelection.

Community Tiff Over Parking

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By Claire Walla

Noyac resident Dr. Stanley Shore said he’s been visiting the little patch of sand at the end of Noyac Bay Avenue in Northampton Colony for decades.

He’s lived in the area since the 1930s and has always been able to park his car on the road where it dead-ends into a strip of sand along a channel that leads around the corner to a small marina. At high tide, the beach is minimal and buttressed by the private beach club to the left and the private marina to the right.

But for Shore — who, at 87-years-old, doesn’t walk great distances anyway — it doesn’t matter.

“It’s the most beautiful place in the world,” he said.

When Shore discovered last year that “no parking” signs had gone up in 2009, he realized he could no longer access his favorite beach. And since then, he’s led an effort to get Southampton Town to overturn its decision to post the seasonal “no parking” signs. The next town hearing on the matter is this Tuesday, June 28.

“What they’re slowly doing is they’re making this a gated, private community,” he said.

Shore said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Councilman Jim Malone were previously poised to compromise on the parking issue by implementing permit-only restrictions with a limited number of spots for residents of Southampton Town.  But, he said even this proposal has been met with resistance from homeowners.

“We feel betrayed by the board,” Shore said.  “There’s no reason for them to be giving in.”

The parking issue was prompted by what those in Northampton Colony attribute to thefts in the area in 2008. According to a letter written to Southampton Town Council by Northampton Colony Yacht Club Commodore Laurence Tullio, five boat-owners in the marina were subject to theft and vandalism of fishing accessories, including the theft of a fishing net, casting rods and reels, and damage to a boat’s cup holders.

After putting in a FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request with Southampton Town Police for all thefts reported to the town from 2008 to the present, Dr. Shore discovered only one reported incident of theft in the area, which occurred in 2008.

But, according to one Northampton Colony resident (who supports the parking ban), these incidents were not reported to Southampton Town Police because police informed community members there was little hope town detectives would actually recover the missing items.

The resident continued to explain that homeowners were worried that people with intent to steal could park their cars at the end of Noyac Bay Avenue —  a strip of concrete south of the neighborhood’s clubhouse and north of the marina — where they would be able to observe activity in the marina and hone in on where personal items were being stored on each boat.

“That’s ludicrous,” said a Northampton Colony resident who wished to remain anonymous in order to avoid getting involved with neighborhood politics.  If the community used that logic, he continued, “then you have to apply that to every marina on the island,”

He added, “If [thievery] is an issue, then parking should be by permit only.”

This is what Noyac resident Dr. Stanley Shore would settle for, although he added that the present compromise has decreased from permit-only parking along both sides of Noyac Bay Road, to just four spaces on the south side of the street.

“There are over 100 streets [in the Town of Southampton] that end at the water, at public beaches,” said Noyac resident Jayne Young.  The residents of Northampton Colony, she added, “are simply asking for special treatment.”

She, Shore and fellow Noyaker Lisina Ceresa, feel the bigger issue at hand is that if the board continues to  enforce “no parking” restrictions at the end of Noyac Bay Road, it could instigate “a domino effect” across the East End, prompting other communities in Southampton and East Hampton to appeal to their town boards for restricted access.

“I’m generally supportive of maintaining beach access, but from time to time there’s a need to constrain [it.],” said Southampton Councilman Chris Nuzzi who has been in favor of maintaining “no parking” signs on Noyac Bay Avenue.

When asked whether or not he felt restricted parking would effectively make the beach private, he added “that obviously would concern me.  I certainly am not looking to close off beach access to residents. Again, it doesn’t stop people from utilizing the beach — that I would not support.  The only thing it does restrict is parking.”

He continued to explain that the biggest concern for area residents is the number of thefts they’ve reportedly had in the area.

“The reality is, the more people that can park there, the more welcoming it is,” he said.

For Northampton Colony, the issue is more personal than philosophical.

“The fact that the Town of Southampton is considering changing the current seasonal ‘no parking’ restrictions after a major increase in our taxes has raised immediate concerns in our neighborhood,” said a letter written to Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst by Commodore Tullio earlier this month.

The letter added that in 2009 Northampton Colony paid $3,080 in taxes for the clubhouse, but in 2010, these taxes rose to $3,230 and this year that number hit $15,000.  “Raising Northampton Colony’s taxes five fold and now considering changing the seasonal no-parking restriction is totally unacceptable.”

Tullio points to five other waterfront areas in Southampton Town — parts of Sagg Main Road, Townline Road, Daniels Lane, Gibson Road and Ocean Road — that currently hold seasonal “no parking” signs.

In fact, his view is the exact opposite of Young’s.

“If you change the parking restrictions on Noyac Bay Avenue [to allow permit-only parking],” he charged, “will you make the same changes on the above named streets?”

The neighborhood has collectively requested the town hold off on making any decisions regarding any change to the parking restriction until the community receives information on the exact boundary lines indicating which sections of beach are under the jurisdiction of the town trustees, and what is legally owned by the residents of Northampton Colony.

Nuzzi Declines Supervisor Nomination

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According to an email sent out by Southampton Town Republican Chairman Ernest Wruck today, June 6, Councilman Chris Nuzzi has decided not to accept the GOP nomination for Southampton Town Supervisor.

Wruck still believes Nuzzi to be “the best choice for the people of Southampton,” according to the statement, but said he is “confident that the remaining republican ticket will move forward to offer the residents of Southampton a clear choice against higher spending and taxing, which are job and business killers for the town.”

Nuzzi would have been up against incumbent Anna Throne-Holst (Ind.), who accepted the Democratic Party nomination two weeks ago.

The GOP will now be conducting interviews for new supervisor candidates—a process that will include “non-political community leaders,” according to Wruck’s written statement—and it will begin to investigate its legal options for removing Nuzzi’s name from its ballot.

Rededicating the Beebe Windmill

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A rededication ceremony was held at the Beebe Windmill on Ocean Rd. in Bridgehampton this past weekend to mark the completion of major repairs made to the historic structure. The Town of Southampton allocated funds to ensure the preservation of the landmark, and work that included recreating the sails, replacing the rotted main beams, reconstructing the fantail, and replacing exterior shingles began in 2007. Noted restoration expert Robert Hefner monitored the project and Richard Ward Baxter, a highly skilled artisan with experience in historic renovations, and his crew completed the work. 

The windmill was built in 1820 by Samuel Schellinger in Sag Harbor for Captain Lester Beebe, a retired whaling captain and shipbuilder. It was sold and relocated several times until 1914 when it was acquired by John E. Berwind and moved to his estate in Bridgehampton. His widow bequeathed the windmill to the Town of Southampton in memory of her husband, and it continues to stand on the Berwind Memorial Green on Ocean Road. The building has become a local landmark, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.  

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“This windmill is part of our roots and history on the East End and it is important that this structure be preserved for future generations to enjoy,” said Councilman Chris Nuzzi as he addressed town officials, representatives from the Bridgehampton Historical Society, Bridgehampton Village Improvement Society, and others who came out for the rededication ceremony. Superintendent of Parks, Allyn Jackson added, “the project took quite some time to complete, but I am very pleased with the results.”

Trash Talks Sour at Town Hall

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To the average Southampton Town resident, trash is a topic given little thought. Many locals choose to bag their household waste and leave it on the corner of their properties for a private waste hauling company to pick up and cart away. Others participate in the town’s “green bag” system and bring their trash to one of the town’s four dumps, or waste stations. Once those trash bags travel down the chute or are thrown into the back of a truck, the Southampton Town resident’s role in disposing of their household waste is done.

For members of the town board, however, how best to manage the town’s waste is a subject of lively debate. Since last year, the board has explored the idea of privatizing waste management operations, or in other words hiring a private company to run the town’s trash disposal service. Privatization could be the key to lowering costs associated with the town program and ease its deficit. However, some members of the board are weary of the plan and believe privatization might fail to accomplish this goal.

In December of 2008, the town hired Cashin Associates, a business consulting firm, to conduct a comprehensive study on current operations of the town’s waste management system and the viability of hiring a private company to take over the reigns of this town service.

“Historically, the town has run its [waste management] operations as a traditional governmental service rather than as a business that must balance its costs and revenues. This approach, in conjunction with providing a high level of service for a relatively limited number of users, has contributed to operational inefficiencies and a general imbalance of income and expenditures within the Department,” wrote the consulting firm in its opening comments. At a work session held Friday, July 10, members of the board estimated the department’s deficit at around $2.8 million, but comptroller Tamara Wright added that this figure was based on unaudited financials. Kabot added that the town is waiting for the year end 2008 numbers, but said “waste management is in deficit condition.”

Based on Cashin’s analysis, around 11 to 14 percent of the town population use the town’s waste stations, however, councilman Chris Nuzzi argued these figures were debatable. Although the number of participating locals may be small, the costs savings are substantial for residents who take advantage of the program. Cashin estimated the average household paid $215 annually for disposal of their household trash at the town waste site. The average annual price for a private trash hauling company was estimated at $521. However, larger families who live farther from waste stations see only 17 percent savings compared to private hauling services.

In recent years, the town has experienced success with its green bag and bulk waste program. Cashin estimated this leg of the waste management program garners an annual revenue of around $819,000, while the expenditure for the green bag and bulk waste service is approximately $790,000. In addition to positive revenues for these particular services, the waste management department has also worked to cut down on expenses. Closing the Westhampton and Sag Harbor stations one day per week has helped lessen costs.

However, Cashin claims the amount of waste disposed at a town facility steadily decreased from 2004 through 2008. They pointed out that the department has almost 25 employees and over the next eight years will need to pay around $4,000,000 for new equipment and vehicles.

Based on their findings, Cashin advised the town to issue request for proposals, or RFPs, “to gauge vendor interest in taking over transfer station operations, handling transport and disposal of most of its solid waste stream.”

Cashin theorized the town could potentially save money by leasing or selling their equipment. The report added that based on prevailing New York State wages, a private contractor could potentially pay around 10 percent less than the town for labor and staffing.

“In recent years, Southampton had experienced a marked improvement in its overall solid waste management operations, including and especially control of labor costs, better tracking of expenses and interdepartmental charges, and phased upgrades to the North Sea Transfer station …,” the report determined. “[T]his study found that the town-run transport and private disposal of green bag and bulk waste currently costs the town approximately $141 [per ton]. This number is substantially higher than what most other Long Island municipalities pay for similar service. Therefore the major recommendation of this Privatization Study is the town of Southampton issue a request for proposals RFP.”

Both Nuzzi and town councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst were reluctant to entertain bids from private companies before the town receives fully completed and solid figures on the waste management’s financial status.

“I still have a lot of analysis to do,” contended comptroller Wright.

Throne-Holst held firm on waiting for the financials before deciding to privatize the waste management program.

“We are having this discussion without the numbers,” argued Throne-Holst, and it appeared the board was at an impasse again on the viability of privatization.

Southampton Town to Lease Electric Mini-Coopers

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Southampton Town residents might soon see town employees whizzing down the streets of Southampton in electric Mini Cooper cars. Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, who drives a Mini Cooper herself, was first approached by the company, owned by the BMW group, to participate in their “Mini E” pilot program, allowing the town to test the endurance of the electric versions of these characteristically compact vehicles.
During a special board meeting on Friday, June 5, Throne-Holst informed the board that the Mini Cooper company offered the town the use of up to five electric cars for one year. The town in turn would pay a $120 annual lease for each car, but Throne-Holst added that the company would oversee the maintenance for the vehicles. According to the company, the cars travel between 100 to 150 miles on a single charge.
“If we participate as a municipality, we could add some cars to our fleet and [perhaps] take other cars off the road,” said Throne-Holst. “This will help us see how we can move this kind of technology forward.”
“Would [the company] give any consideration to loaning these five cars to cash strapped residents to do the same type of program?” countered Councilman Chris Nuzzi.
Throne-Holst explained that Mini Cooper is targeting municipalities to participate in this program because of the extensive liability insurance held by government bodies. If the town signs onto the project they will follow the lead of several other municipalities, including New York City, which added 10 “Mini E”s to their fleet in January.
“We shouldn’t do this as an advertisement for mini … This will help reduce our costs for this year,” said Throne-Holst, noting the cost savings associated with the project.
“We do have a few cars in our fleet used by various department heads that ought to be replaced. Some have 150,000 plus miles on them,” said Throne-Holst during a later interview. “This way we could put the ‘Mini E’s to use instead and delay the purchasing of new vehicles.”
She added that town comptroller Tamara Wright is going to conduct a cost savings analysis on the project. The town has a signed memorandum of understanding, said Throne-Holst, and she expects the cars will be delivered sometime this month.

Discussion of the Mini Cooper pilot program offered a much needed lighter note to a meeting dominated by discussion against a proposed piece of legislation coming out of Suffolk County. The county is looking to divert funds from the County Drinking Water Protection Program, which is one of the county’s main revenue sources for land preservation said legislator Jay Schneiderman, to use for property tax relief in the coming three years.
“This legislature determines that in assessing the difficult choices that must be made to maintain the county’s fiscal stability, this legislature cannot treat any program as a ‘sacred cow,’” reported the county in a draft of the law.
According to town supervisor Linda Kabot, in 2007 county residents voted to continue using funds from this program for land purchases until 2030.
“This is ill advised and breaking faith with the voters. We stand in opposition,” declared Kabot.
“This program is the main way we purchase land,” reported Schneiderman. “We are one of the most vital areas for preservation in terms of critical habitat.”
The legislation would have a direct impact on the town’s purchasing power. Recently, the board has discussed focusing their CPF monies on debt repayment and the creation of a rainy day fund. Additional land purchases in the town will most likely have to be made in partnership with the county.
“If the county doesn’t have any money to buy land then it can’t partner with the town,” noted Schneiderman, during an interview.

Gateway Approval Celebrated by Fans

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Generally at town board meetings, audience members are asked not to clap or boo for any project that is up for discussion — but on Tuesday night, the Southampton Town board room erupted in applause after three resolutions pertaining to the Sag Harbor Gateway Study were unanimously adopted.
The Sag Harbor Gateway Study represents a change to the entryway of Sag Harbor on the Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike. The modification to the town’s master plan changes zoning in the area from Highway Business (HB) to Hamlet Office (HO).
The Sag Harbor Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC), spearheaded the effort to re-zone the area, but there had been opposition to the change from business owners along the turnpike, including Reid Brothers Inc., and Bay Burger restaurant.
The former zoning — highway business — allowed for commercial enterprises such as auto dealerships and taxicab services. Businesses allowed under the new zoning — hamlet office — are smaller, less obtrusive uses such as physicians offices and professional organizations.
The gateway project, which was sponsored by councilperson Chris Nuzzi under former Southampton supervisor Patrick “Skip” Heaney, has been in the works for nearly two years.
“This has been a long time coming,” Nuzzi said on Wednesday, “It’s really an important project for the Sag Harbor area, because it not only represents the gateway into the Village of Sag Harbor, but it is also an important component of the Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike from a land use perspective.”
Further, Nuzzi said this decision “shows a good balance of need for the area” by allowing for both professional office space and affordable housing “…of which the East End is in scarce supply.”
“The life is up for HB,” he added. “We should consider making changes to HB as it currently exists, and the zoning classification as it is now.”
In December, the Sag Harbor Gateway study area was expanded to include four more residential properties in the area. Those who favored the zone change expressed concern for Ligonee Brook, a stream that runs parallel to the study area, and environmental impacts major development projects could have on habitats in the area. They were also concerned about traffic flow and preserving the look of this area.
“I’m very pleased to see this has come to a conclusion that we all want,” said CAC member Priscilla Ciccariello. “We think it is going to serve to protect the character for the entryway to Sag Harbor and I think its something that is necessary because of the intensity of development in the past, and possibly would come in the future.”
Further, Ciccariello said the study was “endorsed by the fact that the neighbors have wanted to be included in it.”
“The church is going to be there and it’s going to be a nice design,” added Ciccariello referring to the Sag Harbor United Methodist Church’s plans for a new house of worship in the gateway area. “This will enhance the character.”
“I think it’s the right move — it took a long time,” said Jeremy Samuelson of Group for the East End. “The community really came together and decided that by coordinating with Sag Harbor Village to try and find ways to augment what they are doing with their village business district re-zoning and the zoning code re-write, it all just looked right and blended together.”
Samuelson added that this has not been an easy feat.
“It took a tremendous amount of hard work, but it’s a perfect example of community members and CACs, volunteers, non-profits, town employees and everyone getting together — and at the end of the day coming up with something that works.”
Southampton Town councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, who resides in Sag Harbor, said she was glad the zone change was adopted.
“It is important from a scenic and a business development perspective … we were all just pleased to give it a 5-0 round.”
The first of the three resolutions adopted a negative declaration for the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) in connection with the updated Sag Harbor Gateway Plan, which included the four residential parcels. The second dealt with an amendment to the Southampton Town Comprehensive plan.
The final resolution changed the zoning from Highway Business (HB) and residential 20,000 square feet (R-20), to Hamlet Office (HO). All three were sponsored by Nuzzi and seconded by Throne-Holst.

Gateway Plan Gains Support

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Though there have been many meetings on the changing face of the gateway into Sag Harbor from Bridgehampton, Tuesday’s Southampton Town Board meeting was the first public hearing since the plan was amended in December to include a larger study area.

The Gateway Study, as it has come to be known, is an examination by Southampton Town of the area immediately south of the village along the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike and it recommends that town officials look at the area for possible re-zoning.

Currently, the area is zoned as highway business (HB), but is under consideration by the town board to be changed to hamlet office (HO). If that zoning change happens, large highway businesses such as lumber yards or car dealerships — which are currently allowed — would be prohibited.

While the public hearings on the Gateway Study in the past have been lengthy with speakers both for and against the change having their say, Tuesday’s meeting took on quite a different feel. The statements were kept short – all speakers except one having spoken on the record about the issue in the past.

Jefferson Murphree, town planning and development administrator, who explained the current status of the project to the meeting room on Tuesday, outlined the goals of the Gateway Study. According to Murphree, one of the biggest reasons for proposed zoning change is the potential environmental impact that an HB zone could bring to the area.

“Zoning can do a lot in this case,” said Murphree, “through the zone change we can better achieve land uses.”

Eric Cohen – a member of the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) – who represented the John Jermain Library at the hearing, expressed gratitude to the town board for considering the change. He said the library is supportive of the re-zoning. Cohen pointed to a map and showed where the library is hoping to build an annex on the turnpike near Mashashimuet Park.

“Highway Business would tend to encourage a lot of truck traffic and with a library in that area we need to take steps to ensure the children are protected,” he said.

Only one speaker spoke out against the proposal on Tuesday. John Landis, owner of Bay Burger, a restaurant on the Sag Harbor Turnpike, argued the change of zone would eliminate possible business options for properties located within the study area. Landis said if the area were to switch to HO, he would not be allowed to return his establishment to the wholesale bakery it was prior to his purchase of the property. Nor, he added, could it be used as an outpatient care facility. He further argued that the HB zone would allow 82 different types of uses, and HO would only allow 15.

“I would always be concerned of any change and reducing employment opportunities,” Landis said.

Town supervisor Linda Kabot called the public hearing a “re-do” because the study area was expanded after the last public hearing in December to include four additional residential properties, not originally included in the study. Kabot put out a vote to roll over all the previous information from the earlier public hearings into the record. It was unanimously adopted.

Councilman Chris Nuzzi said the four additional properties — all zoned R-20, a purely residential designation — petitioned the town to be included in the study area.

Priscilla Ciccariello, also a member of the Sag Harbor CAC, said she is in favor of the zone change. Ciccariello has spoken on the record at town board meetings many times in the past, arguing why she believes the zone should change to HO. One of her main arguments has been the environmental impact zoning might have on Ligonee Brook, which runs adjacent to the properties in the study area. On Tuesday, however, she also said the zone change would be great for what may be built in the area in the future. She discussed both the library and the building site of the new Sag Harbor United Methodist Church – which is within 500 feet of this study area. She said for both these reasons there should be traffic calming in the area.

“It will help to set a nice character for this area,” said Ciccariello, “we are really reaching for a nice character and opening to the village.”

Noticeably absent from the public hearing was Robert Reid, owner of Reid Brothers Inc, an automotive repair shop in the area who has been speaking against the zone change from the very beginning. The Reid family was collectively arguing the change in zoning would reduce certain business opportunities for them.

At the Sag Harbor CAC (Citizens Advisory Committee) meeting on Friday March 6, CAC chairman John Linder noted the re-zoning of the gateway area would be a “crowning achievement” for the CAC. With the Gateway Study, Linder felt the town board seriously considered the concerns of local CACs and looked to them as legitimate advisory boards, which Linder said was a departure from the previous relationship between the town board and the CACs.

In an effort to work more closely with CACs and members of the public, Nuzzi attended the CAC meeting and said “I give credit to the Sag Harbor CAC for this study … the CACs exist for a reason. They are made up of residents who live and work in the community, and they should always be encouraged to participate in the process.”

Because the Gateway Study would affect the town’s Comprehensive Plan, the county needs to review the document. According to Murphree, the town is now waiting to hear back from the Suffolk County Planning Board and the Suffolk County Planning Commission. The public hearing on the Gateway Study was adjourned for two weeks and will be on the agenda again on March 24 at 6 p.m.

 

Southampton Town to Examine all Capital Projects

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Town Board Meets to Discuss Capital Accounts

At a Southampton Town Board work session on Friday, board members gathered to talk about the discrepancies in the capital accounts. At last week’s work session, council members discovered that there was an approximate $19 million difference between the $16 million actual cash on hand and the $35 million the department heads thought they had in their accounts. Town supervisor Linda Kabot said that this difference in figures could be due to bonds being authorized, but never issued. Now, the board will be looking to go back through all the outstanding capital projects to determine which ones will be priority.

At Friday’s meeting, the town’s management service administrator, Richard Blowes, Tamara Wright, a finance consultant and comptroller Steve Brautigam met with the board members to discuss their plan of action.

Councilwoman Nancy Graboski first spoke at the meeting, giving insight as to what she believes will be the best way to move forward. Graboski and councilwoman Sally Pope were in several meetings this week with the town’s audit committee on the topic.

Graboski said that this issue is particularly disconcerting now because of the current state of the economy.

“This is top priority as far as I’m concerned,” she said on Friday.

Graboski stated that the audit committee intends to gain a full understanding of why these issues have arisen and then put forth their plan of action. She explained that a piece of software called, Team Budget could be utilized to prevent these types of situations in the future.

When Blowes tried to offer the board a history of what has occurred with capital accounts over the past few years, board members Chris Nuzzi and Anna Throne-Holst questioned why they weren’t getting all the account information at Friday’s meeting.

“I appreciate the accounting of what’s happened,” Nuzzi said. “I thought today would be over the capital budget and what happened this year.”

Blowes explained that he was told by Graboski that a good idea would be to go over the chronological history of what has been happening with the accounts over the past few years, so that he may bring the town board up to speed.

“My concern is there is not sufficient time to provide in that level of detail,” Blowes responded.

Throne-Holst agreed with Nuzzi, saying she thought the meeting was going to be held to discuss the realistic situation of the accounts.

“This has not been made clear, and certainly not to me,” the councilwoman said and added she has been requesting a copy of the capital budget for a while.

“What we have is some numbers,” councilwoman Graboski said, “there isn’t anyone willing to stand behind those numbers…then and only then will we be able to state with certainties that we can go forward with the systems and complete the computer software we need in the first quarter to get these numbers and this research back up.”

“Time is up now, I don’t think the board and the public can except to wait until April,” Throne-Holst maintained.  

Kabot explained that at first, the priority was on the $7.5 million deficit that was accumulated over the years 2004 through 2007 for police, highway, and waste management expenses, in the $82.5 million operating budget.

“We needed to fix it and go line by line and expense by expense,” she said before adding that now, the capital plan will be priority.

“Let the process and the priorities be laid out, hypocritical doesn’t work here,” the supervisor said.

“We are trying to take the bull by the horns at this point,” Graboski added.

Kabot said that the town hired a financial consultant to go over the information, and a Microsoft consultant to go over the software and address these problems.

“We now have all the cash accounts reconciled through November,” explained Wright. What she was advocating for at the meeting was the implementation of Team Budget, a budgeting software tool. She said that the software consultant said it was never fully implemented but now her plan is to bring the software consultants back in.

“As soon as an account goes negative, and you know you need to bond, it [the computer program] will trigger it is time to borrow,” Wright said.

“This is so you don’t prematurely borrow when you are not ready,” Kabot explained.

“They are coming in February and will install it,” Wright added. “So starting in the first quarter, department heads can work on their budgets.”

Comptroller Brautigam explained the reason for the so-called “missing funds” is because the “computer program is saying there is much more because the town board approved the projects.” Brautigam further explained that sometimes the projects are approved but the money wasn’t borrowed straight away, which is common because it saves money on interest and bond council costs.

For example he explained that he recently got a quote for a $20 million bond and the interest rate was 3.85 percent. But for a bond of $2.5 million the rate was two percent. 

Kabot said that there may be critical projects such as building or road repairs, but added, “We are not floating another bond until we have a good handle on our bonded indebtedness.”

Nuzzi asked for an immediate list of projects so that the board may consider those that may be of priority, like projects in the highway department or public works.

“What may be a greater issue is why are we authorizing projects that are not being done right away,” he asked.

“You’ve hit the nail on the head,” said Kabot. The supervisor said there are some projects that could have been given dual names in an account.

“We will scrutinize all of it,” said Nuzzi of all capital projects.

The board will meet on February 13, for a work session on public works, to see if there are any projects that need to be handled immediately.